Cards solid in victory

FRONT ROYAL — Starter Corey Sessions gave Front Royal a solid five innings and the Cardinals’ bats did the rest as the Valley League baseball team claimed a 7-2 victory over Aldie on Thursday night at Bing Crosby Stadium.

Sessions ran his record to 2-0 as he gave up just one hit and no earned runs, striking out four and walking only one in a game where he carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning for the Cardinals, who evened their record at 2-2 with their second straight victory.

“Corey did a good job,” said Front Royal manager Brad Neffendorf. “He was a regular starter for an NAIA playoff team and he has pitched well for us. This was his second start for us and he pitched about 40 innings this year in college, so he did well.”

Sessions, who carried a 4.50 earned run average into the North Division tilt, allowed just four baserunners in his quintet of frames, but only one Senator reached base via a hit. The rest got on either by error or the single base-on-balls.

Neffendorf replaced the right-hander with reliever Mario Morales in the sixth. Morales watched as Aldie loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, but with a potential sixth run at the plate, he had pinch-hitter Will Decker pop out to end the game.

Front Royal started the season having trouble pushing runs across the plate, but in the last two games, the Cardinals have exploded for 17 runs.

Leadoff hitter Edgar Lebron led the Cardinals with two hits in three trips to the plate. He drove home two runs, scored one, and also stole a base.

“We were having trouble earlier because a lot of our guys had had a pretty long break after their seasons were over. The small college guys don’t go as long into their season as the Division I guys,” Neffendorf said. “But even the D-1 guys had a gap there after their college seasons had started leading up to [the Valley League].

“We hadn’t gotten in a lot of work in the preseason, and it showed. But in the last few games, we’ve had good at-bats. The guys have been swinging at their pitches and, when we needed, we’ve put the ball in play behind our base-runners. In all, it was a good outing for us.”

The game was a pitchers’ duel between Sessions and Aldie starter Ryne Combs for the first two innings, but Front Royal put two runs across in its half of the third. The Cardinals scored four more in the sixth and another in the seventh to claim the victory.

Aaron Stubblefield, who scored two runs, started the third off by getting on base on an infield error. Lebron followed with a single to right, pushing Stubblefield to third, where he scored on a sacrifice. A sacrifice fly also plated Lebron.

Aldie (1-5) countered with a run in the fifth, in part due to an error. Front Royal second baseman Josh Beams contributed two miscues in the game, playing second in place of regular Tre Porter. The latter, a Sherando High School graduate and current Shepherd player, was out after injuring his glove hand two games ago. Nonetheless, Beams accounted himself well, socking a double in the fifth before being lifted for reserve Greg Lambert, who also doubled.

“Second base is not Josh’s normal position and he put in the effort for us. He hit the ball well, and he’ll come around in his fielding. Second base was new to him,” said Neffendorf.

Ahead 2-1, the Cardinals poured on more scores in their half of the sixth.

Bobby Lang doubled to left and came home on a single by Blake Thomas. With two outs, Lambert reached base on an infield error to score Thomas. Stubblefield ripped a single to center to score Lambert. Then Lebron collected his second RBI with a single, again to center. This brought home Stubblefield.

Lebron was thrown out, trying to steal second, but the damage was done. It was 6-1 Front Royal.

The Cardinals’ final score came in the seventh when Drew Small singled past shortstop. He stole a base and then moved to third on a catcher’s throwing error. Lang brought him home with a sacrifice.

It appeared that Front Royal was ready to sack the bats, but the Senators made them hang around David Lee Wines Field perhaps longer than they wanted.

Aldie’s Michael Gouge reached base on an error and moved to second on a single past third base. Matt MacMahon, who collected two hits for the Senators, drove home Gouge. Then Morales walked Carter Cashman to load the sacks.

Neffendorf decided to stay with his pitcher and Morales responded when the pinch-hitter flew out to end the game.

The Cardinals committed four miscues, while the Senators had three in the game.

“You don’t like to have the errors, but it’s still early and there’s plenty of time to improve,” Neffendorf said.